Shannon and Dean Hale’s The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare is delightfully and generously illustrated by LeUyen Pham whose many images are sure to encourage young readers’ transition from early readers to easy chapter books. The story strains against traditional fairytale conventions by engaging contemporary ideas and empowering its diverse princesses.
The star, Princess Magnolia, is entering the Interkingdom Science Fair for the first time. At the story’s opening, the blond rosy-cheeked princess makes her way onto a train crowded with diverse characters. She is heading to the science fair with her project. Once at the science fair, she finds her friends Princess Honeysuckle and Princess Snapdragon. The group is quickly joined by other princesses. They delight in each other’s projects. The princesses are far less competitive than cooperative in their mutual enjoyment and appreciation of each other’s work.
One young boy, Tommy Wigtower, and his project, a talking volcano, catches Princess Magnolia’s attention. Tommy is insistent that his volcano is not supposed to talk – it is supposed to erupt! The princesses try to help him troubleshoot. It turns out Wigtower added some monster fur to his more traditional ingredients. And the monster fur… well, it turned his science experiment into a monster!
With the monster growing quickly, Princess Magnolia disappears and reappears as the Princess in Black. Another hero princess, Princess in Blankets, emerges. She is a clumsy, but not incompetent, disguised princess.
The monster erupts from the volcano and eats Princess Magnolia’s science project. The ever-growing monster hops from science project to science project. Instead of trying to destroy the monster, which only wants a place to call home, Princess in Blankets and Princess in Black steer the monster onto a train and to a suitable location. Of course, this is easier said than done and quite a bit of excitement ensues, but the goo monster eventually finds a home and a friend.
The princesses return to the science fair and winners are announced.
This is a wonderful transitional text for readers ready to move from easy readers to early chapter books. It fills an important niche and it does it extremely well! Even more, this is a series. If young children fall in love with the characters and style of delivery, they will have lots more books to devour!